Anna Moeller: Candidate profile
Name: Anna Moeller
Office sought: State Representative, 43rd District
Family: Married to Marc Moeller. We have two daughters, Madeline (15) and Eleanor (12)
Occupation: State Representative
Education: BA History, NIU and MPA, NIU
Civic involvement: Member of the Elgin Branch of the Association of American University Women; Former Vice-President of the Northeast Neighborhood Association, PTO Treasurer for Channing Elementary School, City of Elgin Planning and Development Commission, City of Elgin Human Relations Commission and ESL tutor for the Literacy Connection
Elected offices held: City of Elgin City Councilmember (2011 to 2014); State Representative, 43rd District (2014 to present)
Questions & Answers
Would you vote to approve a graduated income tax? If so, what qualifiers would you impose and where would you set the brackets? What would the top tax rate be?
While I support a graduated income tax, any tax that I would support would have to address lowering the tax burden on the majority of middle class and lower income families in order to earn my support. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the state of Illinois has the fifth most regressive tax structure in the nation. This means that our current tax system is working very well for the ultra-rich, but not the average Illinoisan because most taxes are not based on ability to pay. Our property taxes are the second highest in the nation and state services our communities depend on have been underfunded. Because our state relies so heavily on property taxes to pay for essential public services like K-12 education and public safety, middle and lower income families carry a heavier burden and paying a larger share of their income in taxes than wealthy families and corporations in our state. This inequity is not only unfair but has contributed to the financial instability of our state over the past several decades.
How big a problem is the level of property taxation in Illinois? If you view it as a problem, what should be done about it?
Illinois has the second highest property tax burden in the nation (second only to New Jersey). This is a problem for a few reasons. The first is that these taxes are based on property value and not income, making them unaffordable for families and individuals on a fixed income, like seniors who are retired, the unemployed and the underemployed. Second, most property taxes levied in our state are levied for K-12 education. This heavy reliance on property taxes to fund K-12 education leads to funding inequities for school districts. Illinois has huge disparities in resources available to students between wealthy communities with high property values and poorer communities. I supported the legislation to enact an evidenced based funding formula and increase in state funding for K-12 and the companion $50 million in property tax relief for school districts with lower property values and high property tax rates. This step, along with increasing the state's share of education funding through a more progressive tax structure and other revenue sources (legalized marijuana as an example) can lessen the reliance on property taxes and lead to a lower property tax burden. I have also opposed proposals that would increase property taxes on homeowners including Governor Rauner's efforts to transfer existing pension obligations to school districts and cut Local Government Distributive Funds for municipalities.
What is your evaluation of Gov. Rauner's job performance? Please specify what you view as its highs and lows.
When he was elected in 2014, I had great hope that Gov. Rauner would be a leader who would bring people together to solve the long-term challenges facing our state. I was optimistic when he started his administration by meeting individually with members of the General Assembly to discuss ideas and perspectives. Unfortunately, that communication and sense of cooperation was not long lived. His governing style for most of his tenure has been a "my way or the highway" approach that doesn't work well in state government. His refusal to negotiate a budget in good faith and often changing his demands led to the longest budget impasse in US history, which severely impacted local community colleges and social service agencies. He has also fought against legislation that I've sponsored or co-sponsored to help my district, including a bill to advance equal pay for equal work for women, protecting workers from employment discrimination and giving local communities the ability to determine funding for developmental disabilities.
What is your evaluation of Speaker Michael Madigan's job performance? If you voted for him for speaker in the last legislative session, please explain your vote.
I don't agree with Speaker Madigan on all issues, and my voting record reflects those differences. For example, we have differed on legislation passed last year that gives tax breaks to individuals who contribute to a fund for private school and parochial schools and legislation that would have increased the cost of worker compensation rates for small businesses. I voted for Speaker Madigan in the last leadership election because the only candidates who sought the office were Rep. Madigan and Rep. Jim Durkin. Rep. Durkin is the Republican minority leader and his position on many issues that conflict with those that benefit the people I represent, including legislation to close the gender wage gap, access to reproductive health care and ensuring protections and living wages for workers. It is my responsibility to elect a leader who more closely reflects the values and the concerns of my district and that was not Rep. Durkin. Regardless of who is Speaker of the House, I work for the people of my district and I am ultimately accountable to them.
Should there be term limits for legislative leaders? If so, what would you do to make that happen? What other systemic changes should be made to strengthen the voice of individual legislators, limit the control of legislative leaders, encourage bipartisanship?
Our democratic institutions have term-limits built into our governmental system through elections every two to four years. Every election, voters have the opportunity to decide whether their elected representatives are serving their needs and the needs of the state. The same principle applies for our legislative leaders.
One reform that would be useful toward increasing the voice of individual legislators is requiring that all legislation at the beginning of a two-year legislative session be assigned to a substantive committee and not held in the Rules Committee (or subcommittee) and that the legislative calendar be expanded to accommodate hearing all bills sponsored by legislators in both parties. A common complaint by the minority party is that their legislation often remains stuck in the Rules Committee without the benefit of a hearing and vote in committee and I believe their concerns are valid. Finally, despite popular perception that Springfield is in constant partisan gridlock, my experience has been that the vast majority of legislation passes on a bipartisan basis and that rank-and-file legislators have good working relationships across the aisle. The budget impasse would not have ended last year had it not been for rank-and-file legislators in both parties meeting and negotiating a budget and pushing their leaders to call the budget for a vote.
How concerned should we be about Illinois' population loss? What needs to be done to reverse the trend?
Illinois' population loss is a concern because it limits economic growth in the state. The reasons for the declines are complicated and cannot be attributed to one factor. According to the Better Government Association and Migration Policy Institute, immigration drove population growth in Chicago and Illinois during the 1990s, but has slowed substantially since the Great Recession in 2007 when fewer immigrants from primarily Mexico, migrated to the US. Meanwhile, the numbers of both African-American and non-Hispanic white residents have declined in recent years. That has had a modest impact on population numbers in the Chicago area, but a much steeper one downstate, a trend that tracks with mostly rural counties throughout the Midwest. The loss of manufacturing jobs has contributed to the decline as has the long-term trend of retirees seeking warmer climates in the South. While we have no control over the reasons people leave for warmer climates, we do have the ability to craft policies that attract new industries and investments to the state. A good recent example and something we should be doing more of, is the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), that I co-sponsored and was passed in 2016. Because of FEJA, the state is seeing a substantial increase in the number of solar companies investing in Illinois. We need to be creative in identifying and attracting new industries like the clean energy sector.
The state's financial instability and regressive tax structure that relies too heavily on local property taxes to fund public services has also led to a loss of confidence in Illinois.
Please provide one example that demonstrates your independence from your party.
My votes and the issues that I prioritize are based on the needs and concerns of my district and not my party. One example is I have consistently voted to maintain the State Charter School Commission, which is largely opposed by members of my party, but is important to residents in my community because it was instrumental in getting the Elgin Math and Science Academy, a new public K-8 school in Elgin, approved.
What other issues are important to you as a candidate for this office?
My priorities have been and continue to be:
Ensuring a balanced state budget that funds community colleges, critical mental health and other social services; lowering the burden of property taxes; enacting a more equitable and transparent school funding formula; closing the gender wage gap and giving women a greater voice in state government; pension and good government reform by sponsoring and passing legislation to eliminate pensions for part-time elected officials; environmental protection and the creation of clean energy jobs; gun law reforms that restrict access to assault weapons, gun dealer licensing and banning bump stock modifications that increase a gun's lethality; and protecting seniors and preserving their access to in-home services that keep them independent and out of nursing homes.
In addition, here a few questions meant to provide more personal insight into you as a person:
What's the hardest decision you ever had to make?
The hardest decision I've made so far in my life was a decision that I made with my grandmother to choose a nursing home for my mother when she became too ill to live at home and too ill to travel to live with me or my family in Illinois. While still in her mid-40s my mom was living in rural Louisiana and became ill with cancer and liver disease and she was living on her own. My grandmother and I traveled to Louisiana to take care of her but lacking the skills and the ability to move full-time to Louisiana, we were compelled to find a nursing home for her. My mom didn't have health insurance and had spent most of her savings on doctor's visits and medicine so her options were very limited when it came to choosing a nursing home that could adequately take care of her. Many of the nursing homes we toured were not great options and we agonized over the decision. I had a first-hand experience with the stress families face when lacking adequate health insurance and adequate savings for long-term care. My mom's experience has influenced my views on our broken health care system and the need for universal access to care. It also has shaped my perception of nursing homes; the inconsistent quality of care that some provide, the need for greater transparency on nursing home care for families when they are having to choose a facility and better oversight to ensure that patients and residents are given quality care.
Who is your hero?
My grandparents are my heroes. They adopted me when I was two years old. My mom was 19 and single when she got pregnant with me and she struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for most of her life. My grandparents were raising four other children when they took me in and they had to make sacrifices for me. My grandfather was a firefighter and my grandmother was a part-time receptionist at a doctor's office so money was tight when I was growing up. Nevertheless, they gave me the stable home life I needed and helped me go to college and be the first in my immediate family to graduate from college and get a Master's degree. Without them, my life would have been dramatically different and through their example I learned the value of hard work, resiliency and the need to give back to my community.
Each amendment in the Bill of Rights is important, but which one of those 10 is most precious to you?
The First Amendment is the most important Amendment in the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment, which prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or to petition for a governmental redress of grievances, is the foundation of our democracy. Recent attacks on the press by President Trump in an effort to discredit journalists and news organizations that have been critical of his Administration gives even greater urgency in defending these fundamental rights.
What lesson of youth has been most important to you as an adult?
I was very close to my great-grandmother and I was always surrounded by older people when I was a child. I loved hearing her stories about her experiences during the Great Depression, raising her three children as a single mother in the 30s and the contributions of family members during World War II. When she fell ill to Alzheimer's disease when I was a young adult, I saw my grandmother and great-aunt struggle to take care of her in their homes, alternating her care between them. They resisted putting her into a nursing home until they could no longer adequately take care of her themselves. Their experience with caring for my great-grandmother brought into reality the struggles that many families experience in caring for their elderly loved ones and motivated me to take on the issue in the General Assembly. It is one of the reasons I asked to Chair the Committee on Aging when I was given the opportunity. I think of my grandmother and my great-grandmother in my work every day to ensure that seniors are cared for in our state.
Think back to a time you failed at something. What did you learn from it?
I have failed several times to quit smoking. I started when I was 18 years old and although I have quit many times, it is still an addiction I struggle with. My experience with tobacco was why I supported the bill to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21. Had this policy been in place when I was young, it may have prevented me from starting and it's an addiction that can be and should be prevented for future generations. Addiction, in all forms, is a societal problem that deserves greater attention and resources to combat.